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Gillian Wanosky

I remember a time when I wasn’t interested in studying abroad. I was complacent with what I had at home, and I feared the uncertainty of leaving. Choosing to study abroad was the best decision I could have made. This trip not only defied my expectations of studying abroad, but it ignited a fire within me to continue traveling internationally.

When I was in kindergarten, my dad traveled to Japan for a business trip. When he returned, he showed us pictures and told us exciting stories about what became one of his favorite traveling experiences. I remember thinking it was so incredible that he was given the opportunity to travel across the world and see a country that we’d only seen in pictures. Little did I know that 15 years later, I’d be given the opportunity to travel there myself. When I told my parents about the chance to study abroad in Japan and South Korea with the WVU Reed College of Media, my dad was ecstatic; it was almost like there was no question as to whether I was going. He wanted me to experience what he once did, and so did I.

                                       Gillian with her group in traditional Korean dresses.

As a tourist, this trip was an absolute DREAM. We were doing new and exciting things every single day. Our professors helped guide us through the subways of Tokyo and Seoul, taking us sightseeing everywhere from Buddhist temples to electric shopping and dining districts.

 As a journalism student, the trip really helped me develop an eye for taking footage for impressionistic videos, as well as several other filming techniques, such as time-lapse. We had two professors on our trip, David Smith and Dr. Sammy Lee, and both helped us with tips on how to shape our required video blog posts for our trip. I felt like I started seeing things from a photographer’s perspective, and that made sightseeing all the more fun.

 I enjoyed all parts of the trip, but the most memorable part for me was our visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone. I actually had no idea that you could even go near this area, and I thought it was so intriguing to see the difference between the two nations—North and South Korea— just seeing the land that divides the two countries is an experience I will never forget. The visit gave me a brief history of the Korean War and how it divided families—and how it created two drastically different forms of leadership. It saddened me to think that families were separated by Korea's division, but it was fascinating to listen to the South Koreans and their hopefulness for the future. My travels created a new image of Korea for me, and it developed an interest that I would love to pursue as a journalist in the future.

                                      Gillian posing in Japan.

One of the best parts of this entire experience came from the memories I made with my new friends. Traveling abroad helps create friendships in a way that an ordinary class can’t. Working with students who share my passion for storytelling made it so easy to get along with them, and I made friendships that will continue long after this trip. I’m beyond thankful that I go to school that provides these opportunities, and I hope that more students choose to study abroad in years to come.

This was my first time traveling to another continent, and it was unlike any trip I’d ever taken. It opened my eyes to a culture completely different from my own, but it also showed me just how similar we are as people. I think it’s so important to expose yourself to other nations and cultures, because it changes your perspective on what you thought you knew. Thanks to WVU, I was able to immerse myself in a new and exciting atmosphere, and it helped me break down the mental barriers I had about studying abroad.